The Edelweiss Pirates


In modern day Germany, 16-year old Daniel befriends an elderly man called Josef.  Although friendly and talkative, Daniel nevertheless feels that Josef is holding back something in their conversations.  Daniel’s instinct proves to be correct when Josef gives him his wartime diary, which tells of a shocking story of rebellion and defiance.

It is this diary which forms the basis of this thrilling tale of bravery.  Josef was a member of the loosely organised Edelweiss Pirates who rebelled against the Hitler Youth movement.  They believed in freedom of expression and, although at first, the rebels were essentially about having a good time, gradually their opposition to the Nazis took on a more dangerous dimension. So much so, that they put their lives in mortal danger for their cause.

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The Edelweiss Pirates

Dirk Reinhardt, introduction by Michael Rosen

Translated by Rachel Ward

(Pushkin Children’s Books)

Dirk Reinhardt’s The Edelweiss Pirates is a thought-provoking fictional account of a real-life group of teenagers who rebelled against the authorities in Germany during the first half of the 1940s.  In an introduction to the story, Michael Rosen sets the historical background to the story.  He asks why the Edelweiss Pirates have not featured more prominently in histories of the Second World War.  Why indeed?  Their story is one of remarkable bravery.
Membership of the Hitler Youth (for boys) and the BDM (for girls) was compulsory for German teenagers between the mid-1930s and 40s. Furthermore, these groups enforced strict behaviour and limited the freedoms of their members. Some members began to rebel and chose to spend their time with their friends.  For example, they wore whatever they wanted, grew their hair long and refused to participate in promoting the Nazi regime.
The story is narrated by a modern-day teenager whose meeting with an elderly stranger leads his new-found friend to entrust him with his own teenage diary from the 1940s.  The diary provides the narrative of the incredible and tragic story of a group of Edelweiss Pirates. What begins as escape from bullying within the Hitler Youth turns into deliberate activism.  The friends face increasingly severe threats and punishments from the police, the SS and the Gestapo. The first-person perspective offers an intimate insight into the motivations of the group and their actions.
Dan Smith’s My Brother’s Secret also relates a tale of the Edelweiss Pirates.  It is available in the Bookwagon on-line book store.
Further information about the Edelweiss Pirates can be found on the History Learning web site 



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